Saturday afternoon at the Jordan Center, Purdue became the latest conference opponent to heal its road blues against the Blue and White, as forward Carl Landry muscled in 26 points while the Boilermakers sent the hapless Nittany Lions to their seventh straight loss, 69-59.
Eventually, it gets to you a bit, said PSU forward Geary Claxton, who posted team highs in points (14) and rebounds (12) for his sixth double-double of the season. The Nittany Lions fell below .500 for the first time this year (10-11 overall, 1-7 Big Ten), and preseason talk of the program's first NCAA Tournament bid since 2001 has officially been replaced by doubt — outside and inside the program.
I think we're disappointed in ourselves, senior point guard Ben Luber said when asked about PSU fans being upset with the slide. We had our own expectations.
With a non-conference slate that proved every bit as poor as advertised, the Lions had to control their home floor to have a shot at NCAAs. And this appeared to be the perfect year to do that. Going into Saturday's action, Big Ten teams were winning 70 percent of their league home games.
But home has not been so sweet to the Lions.
Purdue was Penn State's third straight home opponent to gain it first road win of the season at the BJC, joining Indiana and Michigan State. But unlike the Hoosiers and Spartans, who arrived in Happy Valley with no road wins largely because they faced killer competition, Purdue has been awful outside of Mackey Arena.
The Boilermakers had NEVER won a road game under second-year coach Matt Painter. They had dropped 29 (count 'em) consecutive road games overall and 21 straight in the Big Ten, dating back to Feb. 21, 2004 at Minnesota. Purdue was 0-6 on the road this year.
You would have never known it Saturday, as the Boilermakers (14-8, 3-5) played as if they owned the BJC, putting together a much better game than their 64-60 escape vs. PSU in West Lafayette Jan. 6. Landry had his way with Lion centers Brandon Hassell and Milos Bogetic, making 11 of 14 shots.
Landry was strong inside.
Hassell, at 6-foot-11, 235 pounds, finished the game with no fouls and two rebounds.
We just didn't use any fouls on him, DeChellis said of Landry. We didn't hammer him one time.
The Purdue guards, meanwhile, were so physical with their PSU counterparts that the crowd began to beg the officials to call fouls. The Boilermakers' approach worked, as Lion shooting guard Dan Morrissey was held to three points on 1-of-4 shooting. Morrissey went off for 21 against Purdue in the previous game.
Of the Lion backcourt players, only Luber found his scoring stroke, going 4 of 8 from the floor for 14 points. But he also had seven turnovers, one of them leading to the closest thing to a turning point there was in this one.
With 13:20 remaining, Penn State trailed 34-31 and had possession. Luber mishandled the ball and Landry got the steal, quickly kicking ahead to Marcus Green. As Green slammed the ball through the rim, Bogetic was whistled for pushing Boiler Chris Kramer, who was trailing the play.
The basket was good and Purdue was awarded the ball. David Teague made a 3-pointer seven seconds later and like that the score was 42-34. Penn State could get no closer than six the rest of the way and once again went down with a whimper.
Just losing has been a frustrating thing, a dejected Claxton said. Just trying to get on the winning track.
We just have to keep working, Claxton said. You can't quit.
The Nittany Lions had a TOTAL of eight rebounds in the first half. And two of those were team rebounds, which meant a missed Boilermaker shot went out of bounds.
Hassell and Bogetic continue to be non-factors in the paint. They combined for zero rebounds in 21 first-half minutes. Hassell has logged 174 minutes in the Big Ten and has a grand total of two blocked shots, an abomination for a player with his size and athletic ability. He has 12 defensive rebounds in EIGHT league games. Bogetic had no rebounds Saturday and has 10 defensive boards in eight league games.
In two games vs. Penn State this season, Landry is 17 of 24 (71 percent) from the floor.
Claxton is 5 of 21 (24 percent) from the 3-point line in the Big Ten.
Penn State had 10 fastbreak points in the first half and two in the second.
DeChellis' Big Ten record is now 11-45 in three and a half seasons.